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Posts from — May 2013

Book Review: The Twentieth Wife by Indu Sundaresan

Title: The Twentieth Wife
Author: Indu Sundaresan
Paperback: 380 pages
Publisher: Washington Square Press (February 18th 2003, first published 2002)
Genre: Historical Fiction
Read: Paperback
Stars: ****/5
Buy On: Amazon | FlipKart
Summary: (Goodreads)
An enchanting historical epic of grand passion and adventure, this debut novel tells the captivating story of one of India’s most controversial empresses — a woman whose brilliance and determination trumped myriad obstacles, and whose love shaped the course of the Mughal Empire. Skillfully blending the textures of historical reality with the rich and sensual imaginings of a timeless fairy tale, The Twentieth Wife sweeps readers up in Mehrunnisa’s embattled love with Prince Salim, and in the bedazzling destiny of a woman — a legend in her own time — who was all but lost to history until now.

My Review:

Note: Thanks to the guys at MySmartPrice for offering me “The Twentieth Wife” to review 🙂

Cover: Lovely!

Paper and font: Ebony and Ivory! Smell-Worthy!

Readability, language: An easy read that transports you back in time to the days of the Mughals.

Why did I choose this book: Indian History has always enthralled me and fiction based on fact so much better than our school text books.

I first learned of Nur Jahan in school when we studied Mughal history. I remember there was a photo of her in the text books too. As Jahangir’s favourite wife she had played an important role in Mughal history. This is her story, all that wasn’t said in the text book. Mehrunissa’s life, and her journey to becoming Jahangir’s Nur Jahan.

The Twentieth Wife is an apt title for the story of Jahangir’s twentieth and last wife. There seem to be a lot covers circulating and all seem nice but the one I got, has a photo of Mughal architecture that I quite liked. The blurb is well written, explaining the importance of Nur Jahan, a bit about her background and what to expect. The book doesn’t let the blurb down.

The book is based on historical fact and Indu has used those facts to weave a rich story of Mogul India, the durbar of Akbar, his relationships with his wives and children, Salim’s desire for the throne, his becoming the Emperor Jahangir and between all this is Mehrunissa, slowing making her way towards the title of Nur Jahan.

The story starts in the time of the Mughals when Akbar reigned over India from Fatehpur Sikri. A time when Merunissa along with her family arrive as refugees from Persia. There on Indu takes us on a journey with the imperial court though India as it was then, from Lahore to Bengal. I could almost see all those places in my minds eye. I have always felt the Mughal courts had a lot of romantique and Indu’s book brought it alive for me. After Mughal-E-Azam, this is the next best piece of Mughal work I’ve ever come across.

The Twentieth Wife is brimming with characters, it’s too long a list but the characters stick with you. Somehow through the book I remembered them; some fondly and some with anger. There were a lot of times when Mehrunissa tested my patience, Salim vexed me, Ali Quli had me raging, I felt sad for Abkar and I laughed out loud at Ruqayya’s games. Indu has drawn out and described each character richly; it almost feels as if you know them.

The Twentieth Wife is beautifully structured, it was like a little historical soap opera running in my mind’s eye as I read the book. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a Mughal soap on TV, Ekta Kapoor do you hear me? This book holds lots of promise both in richness and length 😀 Wonder who’d play Mehrunissa?

I love stories of pre-independence India where Kings ruled and life was filled with intrigue. But I don’t often come across a book that is written so well that it transports me back in time. The last book I remember to do that was ‘Far Pavilions’ by M.M.Kaye and now ‘The Twentieth Wife’. I’m so looking forward to the next two books in the series – The Feast of Roses and Shadow Princess.

If you like me love stories of Kings and Queens, Rajas and Maharajas, The Twentieth Wife is a must read. It promises and delivers evenings filled with imperial grandeur and intrigue.

About the Author:
Indu Sundaresan like most authors today has a Masters degree from the US. Indu’s father was a fighter pilot and an avid storyteller, just like his father and Indu says that where it all started for her. Seems Indu currently lives in the US but there’s nothing about her current life on her website

Buy On: Amazon | FlipKart

May 30, 2013   3 Comments

Book Review: The Great Indian Love Story by Ira Trivedi

Title: The Great Indian Love Story
Author: Ira Trivedi
Paperback: 196 pages
Publisher: Penguin Global (May 26th 2010, first published 2009)
Genre: Chick-lit
Read: Paperback
Stars: ***/5
Buy On: Amazon | FlipKart
Summary: (Goodreads)
The Great Indian Love Story is set in a world where appearances mean everything and nothing is as it seems. Ira Trivedi weaves together sex, revenge, glitz, friendship and a chilling murder to create a potent cocktail in this gripping novel on the perfidious nature of love and power.

My Review:

Cover: Simple but eye catchy.

Paper and font: Easy on the eyes!

Readability, language: Makes for fast reading.

Why did I choose this book: The cover and blurb caught my eye…

A disappointed Riya comes back to India after failing to get a job in America and finds herself in a changed Delhi. While she is trying to make sense of it all she meets Serena, a wild party animal who lives life one night at a time. Serena introduces her to the night life of Delhi, filled with parties, ecstasy, cocaine and sex. And then there is Parmeet, Serena’s mother who just wants to be loved but her simple want leads to an illicit affair that breaks her family.

‘The Great Indian Love Story’ is a story of love in modern Delhi where there are dark undertones and complications galore to the simple emotion called love. If you are expecting a warm fuzzy love story, this isn’t it. This is love and life on Page 3.

The plot involves two families with quite a few sub-plots. Ira tells the story of three women – Riya, Serena, and Parmeet, who are just trying to find happiness, each in their own way.

Set in present day Delhi, Ira takes us into the party scene where the page 3 crowd live their lives. They may have all the money but they crave the rest, and drown themselves in cocaine, alcohol and sex.

Ira has a fair number of characters in her book. There’s Riya who is trying to make peace with being in India; she isn’t happy about coming back from America. Serena who’s mother has married again but Serena doesn’t fit into the new family. She craves love and finds it in Amar who is a rich married serial adulterer and cocaine addict. Then there is Parmeet, Serena’s Mother who craves romance. When it fizzles out in her marriage she has an affair that leads to violence, murder and a new marriage and baby for her.

‘The Great Indian Love Story’ is a story that has you shaking your head and wondering how life can become so convoluted and complicated for some people. The rich have it all yet their lives are so empty and incomplete.

The story is told by Riya, Serena and Parmeet with bits from Parmeet’s first husband S.P. Sharma to tie it all together. We get to hear from the protagonists about just what’s running in their minds as life unfolds for them.

The book is a fast read that leaves you thinking and contemplating the lives of the page 3 crowd. Worth reading once if you want an insight into the pseudo lives of Page 3 people.

About the Author:
Ira’s wrote her first book when she was 19 years old. Apart for being an author, Ira is also a yoga teacher and teaches at Sivananda yoga centers across the country. She holds a MBA from Columbia Business School and a BA in Economics from Wellesley College, USA. She can be found at

Buy On: Amazon | FlipKart

May 23, 2013   No Comments

Book Review: The Rozabal Line by Ashwin Sanghi

Title: The Rozabal Line
Author: Ashwin Sanghi
Paperback: 346 pages
Publisher: Westland Limited (2010, first published October 1st 2007)
Genre: Historical Fiction / Thriller
Read: Paperback
Stars: */5
Buy On: Amazon | FlipKart
Summary: (Goodreads)
A cardboard box is found on a shelf of a London library where a copy of Mahabharata should have been. When the mystified librarian opens it, she screams before she falls unconscious to the floor. An elite group calling itself the Lashkar-e-Talatashar has scattered around the globe, the fate of its members curiously resembling that of Christ and his Apostles. Their agenda is Armageddon. In the labyrinthine recesses of the Vatican, a beautiful assassin swears she will eliminate all who do not believe in her twisted credo. In Tibet, Buddhist monks search for a reincarnation while in strife-torn Kashmir, a tomb called Rozabal holds the key to an ancient riddle. Father Vincent Sinclair, has disturbing visions of himself and of people familiar to him, except that they seem located in other ages. He goes to India to piece together the violent images burnt onto his mind. Shadowing his every move is a clandestine society, which would rather wipe out creation than allow an ancient secret to be disclosed.

My Review:

Cover: Dark and not really compelling.

Paper and font: Easy on the eyes!

Readability, language: Simple language but a taxing book to read.

Why did I choose this book: After reading Chanakya’s chant, I wanted to read Sanghi’s other books.

Jesus lived to old age and didn’t die on the crucifix. That’s the core of Sanghi’s story as he takes us across the world and across time as he tries to rewrite another ‘Da Vinci Code’.

The blurb mentions London, the Vatican, Afghanistan, India, Tibet, and America. It sounds interesting and action packed but the number of cities mentioned should have tipped me off on the complexity of the book.

The book is definitely inspired by the Da Vinci Code but doesn’t come close to it at all in quality. There are plots and subplots and sub-subplots in the book that leaves you all screwed up in your head. Sanghi has so many religious groups, characters, cities and times that you start to lose track of it all almost as soon as you start the book. If I wasn’t such a stickler for finishing books I would have dropped this one like a hot potato 50 pages into the book.

Where is the book set? This question is just too stressful to answer. Sanghi shuttles between Jerusalem, Kashmir, Afghanistan, Pakistan, America, Tibet, and almost every other country in the world. And it doesn’t end here because he also shuttles through time going back and forth between BC and AD so often that sometimes you are no sure where you are.

As for characters, well he has so many that I’m not sure which ones to talk about. There is Vincent Sinclair a priest who is exploring beyond Christianity. Martha his aunt who knows yoga, Reki, hypnosis and many other things; can one human know and do so much. Then there’s Alissa the American president who also heads the Illuminati, Galib who heads Lashkar-e-Talatashar, the Sheikh and his master Osama who lead the Al-Qaeda, Dawood Omar an important member of Jamaat Islami, Valerio who heads Crux Decussata Permuta, Swakilki a Japanese assassin, among many more characters. Just keeping track of all the characters is tiring.

As a story I think its a good concept but it feels like a thesis written by the RSS trying to prove Hinduism is the beginning and end of all religions in the world. If there was a structure to the book, I didn’t see it. Sanghi starts off and then just keeping going all over trying to connect the dots and bring it all together.

The Rozabal Line is Sanghi’s first book self-published by him and that is the only reason I could find to forgive this piece of work. I can relate with every publisher/editor who rejected his work; I would too.

Gawd, I don’t want to write any more about The Rozabal Line. I definitely wouldn’t recommend this book. You’re better off re-reading the Da Vinci Code.

About the Author:
Ashwin Sanghi is an entrepreneur by day, novelist by night and has all the usual qualifications of an Indian businessman. ‘The Rozabal Line’ was originally self-published in 2007 under his anagram-pseudonym—Shawn Haigins. In 2008 Westland published the book in India under his own name. Ashwin lives in Mumbai with his wife, Anushika, and his eight-year old son, Raghuvir. His website is

Buy On: Amazon | FlipKart

May 21, 2013   5 Comments

Book Review: Mukti by A. Dharma

Title: Mukti
Author: A. Dharma
Paperback: 28 pages
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services, Inc. (December 31st 2012)
Genre: Short Story
Read: e-book
Stars: ****/5
Buy On: Amazon
Summary: (Goodreads)
mu·kti [moo k-tee] — the final extrication of the soul (purusha) from samsara; an end to human suffering and liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth.
Sanskrit: मुक्ति; release — from the root muc “to let loose, let go”

Mukti is a working girl, fresh out of college, living a sheltered upper middle class life in Mumbai, a city booming with call-centers and consumerism. But her parents have a plan that takes her by surprise. When their well meaning decisions clash against her view of the world; the issue is approached by both sides in a manner that is commonplace in their society. With an outcome that is just as common.

But unforeseen events unfold that drive Mukti’s relationship with her life over to the dark side.

My Review:

Kindle Freebie: Thanks A. Dharma for giving your book away and letting me know about it 🙂

Cover: Bright and pretty, it made me feel all bright and smiley.

Paper and font: Easy on the eyes!

Readability, language: : An easy read with simple language used delightfully!

Why did I choose this book: The blurb sounded promising.

Mukti is the story of a girl in the India of today, striving for freedom. She does try to stand up for herself; fight for what she wants but a lot of times just gives in to the pressure. She makes her choices and the sheer accidental nature of life leads her down paths she hadn’t meant to walk.
The story is about 23 year old Mukti who has just finished her studies and started working. Giving in to parental and societal pressure she agrees to an arranged marriage. And what follows is the short story.

Mukti simply means freedom but that word holds so much in it. There are so many freedoms we fight for everyday. The freedom of choice, the freedom to marry who and when we like, the freedom to work, the freedom to speak, the freedom to live and freedom from it all. A. Dharma explores the freedoms we have and the choices we make in his short story appropriately named Mukti.

Mukti’s story is not a new story, it can happen to anyone of us if our stars are misaligned, that said the story is still heart-breaking. A. Dharma takes a couple of sharp turns in the story, just when you’re starting to think you’ve grasped the storyline. And when he ended it, I couldn’t believe it was over. I went back a page to see if I missed something; the end was like falling of a cliff. And like falling of a cliff where the impact is delayed, it all hit me with a few seconds delay.

A. Dharma has based his story in the cities of Mumbai and Delhi with Mukti’s family living in Mumbai and the boy’s family in based in Delhi. He has done a good job of describing Delhi nights as I knew them – at night the streets are quiet with a silent sort-of beauty, India Gate looks beautiful in the night, but just a little away you can see corruption and violence, the people here are pushy with power and so are the cops. It feels like this struggle between beauty and evil.

How can you not associate and sympathise with Mukti, as women we’ve all been through some part of her life. The dilemma of what we want to do with our lives, societal pressures, parental blackmail, arranged marriages and the lot. Mukti’s parents are the typical parents who want to be done with a daughters wedding. It takes a great responsibility off their shoulders and they can breathe easy. And yet they love their daughter and want to see her happy.

The story is narrated by Mukti as she looks back at her life and contemplates what went wrong. A. Dharma uses simple language but spins an enjoyable tale that makes you smile at times as you remember a similar situation.

Like I was saying earlier the story took some abrupt turns. Not that it a bad thing, A. Dharma has done a good job with the story. But the story holds a lot of potential and a lot that’s left unsaid could be written. I’d love to have read about Mukti’s various debacles in the arranged marriage world. On another line, I would have liked to know more about Mukti’s inner struggle and her fight against what happens too. But there’s no taking away the unexpected end that A. Dharma throws in without a warning; it left me gasping.

All said and done I enjoyed reading Mukti and am looking forward to A. Dharma’s next book.

About the Author:
A. Dharma is an online marketing consultant who live in Mumbai and dreams of living in the heartland of India some day. He can be found on Twitter as @adharma.

Buy On: Amazon

May 13, 2013   No Comments

Falling In Love in Thailand

Over the years I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve fallen in love. The first man I can actually remember falling in love with was Big Ears, he was just so adorable, then of course came along Rhett Butler who swept me off my feet and after him, well… the list goes on.

Last year we went to Thailand and landed up watching ‘Law and Order: Criminal Intent’ there on late night TV. It was the first time I saw Detective Goren. It was love at first sight even though I didn’t realise it. Back here in India Law and Order is aired on FoxCrime and I haven’t missed an episode.

There’s something about Robert Goren that makes him a man of intrigue to me. He’s complex with a mind that is constantly surprising me, he’s unpredictable, obessive, intelligent, has these strange cute quirks like cocking his head when interrogating a suspect and he’s good looking too! What more could I ask for 😀

If you’re asking who’s Detective Goren, here’s a little bit about him.
Detective Robert ‘Bobby’ Goren is played by Vincent D’Onofrio in the television series Law and Order: Criminal Intent. The show ran from 2001 to 2011 with Goren in 141 episodes of the 10 seasons aired. Goren is a detective investigator first grade for the Major Case Squad of NYPD and his partner is Det. Alexandra Eames.

I figured I should get to know the man better, so, here’s 13 things I didn’t know about Detective Goren…

1. Robert O. Goren was born on August 20, 1961, and grew up in the Canarsie neighborhood of Brooklyn.
2. His mother Frances (one-me librarian) first started showing symptoms of schizophrenia when Goren was seven years old. She eventually dies of lymphoma.
3. Goren’s estranged older brother, Frank, is a drug addict with a gambling problem.
4. His legal father William Goren was an alcoholic and serial adulterer and his biological father Mark Ford Brady was a serial rapist and murderer.
5. Goren served in the United States Army Criminal Investigation Division after college. He was stationed in Germany in 1987, and did a six-month tour in South Korea.
6. While stationed in Germany with the U.S. Army he learned to speak German and also read the Koran in a youthful attempt to impress a German-Turkish girl.
7. Goren joined the NYPD after leaving the army and spent four years in the Narcotics Division. He was responsible for three sting operations that resulted in 27 arrests and 27 convictions.
8. His Badge Number is 4376 and Social Security number is 845-67-3906.
9. Eames has a higher rank than Goren; he is junior prtner and she’s senior partner.
10. One of Goren’s favorite magazines is the Smithsonian Magazine. He subscribes to it because fits well on his treadmill.
11. Goren enjoys dancing and hates beaches however he does go to one while on a case.
12. He is unmarried and pro-choice.
13. Goren is left-handed and wears size 13 shoes.

Alright thats it. I’m off to watch some more Law and Order and make eyes at Det. Goren 😀

Have you fallen in love with charaters from books and movies? Who’s your current character love?

Credits and Further Reading:
Robert Goren on Wikipedia
Law & Order Wiki
Biography for Detective Robert Goren on IMDb
Character Bio: Detective Robert Goren

May 2, 2013   No Comments